A Little Laptop, a little lacking
In the quest for a new laptop I found this, the Dell Inspiron 3162.
I had been using the ASUS Transformer, also not a great laptop, or a tablet. The Transformer was not up to the task of everyday computing. It lacked the horsepower in its Atom processor and 1GB of RAM to be really useful. I thought the idea of a laptop slash tablet would be great. Not so much. I will do a full review in another post.
So knowing I didn’t have a large budget for a new laptop, probably around $200, I did what everyone does. I started looking around the internet. At this point in early 2016, Windows laptops were getting really cheap. Like compete with Chromebook, cheap. Microsoft was literally giving away Windows 10 so the OEMs could charge less for their hardware. This machine, well Dell went a little too bare bones.
Problems, oh I have had my share
My biggest issue with it, after I had been using it for awhile, was the keyboard. It is shallow, like kiddie pool shallow. The keys are way up by the screen, and while this offers more room for the trackpad and the palm rests, it makes long typing sessions hard. I found my hands getting cramped up using this keyboard. On top of that, the spacing and layout really slowed down my touch typing. I found myself needing to look at the keyboard more to make sure my hands were in the right place. The final issue was the key travel. The keys felt soft and lacked a crisp bounce back that really lets you know that you typed something.
The trackpad is not much better. Dell usually has a good trackpad design, but this one sits right in the middle of the keyboard and was really sensitive to my palm brushing it while typing, causing the cursor to jump all over the screen. This really became an issue when I was trying to type something out that was a little bit longer than a Facebook message. I had to spend a lot of time editing what I wrote to make sure the computer wasn’t helping me along.
The screen is okay, if a little dark and kind of fuzzy. Type looked jagged up close and prolonged reading sessions online really strained my eyes. The front facing camera also created a dark image and was almost unusable for Skype.
The HDMI port and the USB (both are 2.0) ports are to close on the left side. It makes using them both at the same time a little tricky. Then there is the storage, this will continue to be the achilles heel of all Windows based netbooks. The 32GB eMMC drive was 75% full right of the box, with Windows 10 being a lot of that. Once I cleared out a lot of the pre-installed Dell stuff I got some of it back, but then I added in Office 2013. I was left with 5GB for my stuff. This is where the microSD came in handy but still, I would like to have a little more room if I am going to bother to host an OS on board.
I also tried a couple of flavors of Linux on the Dell. That went okay, and was well supported by Ubuntu. Again the lack of processing horsepower and RAM really slowed it down. The memory is not upgradeable by the way. Also there is not one single indicator light on the laptop. You don’t know it’s on, running or if the Wifi is connected at a glance. Not a deal breaker, but I at least like a power light.
A couple of things did go well
This is not to say this laptop was all bad. It’s really small, and light. It is easy to throw in your bag and take off. The battery has decent life for a quick trip to the coffee shop or a meeting. The HDMI port is full size and the microSD Card slot are a nice touch. The power supply for the charge is really small, so that is also a plus. The color is actually really good in normal lighting. It stands out in a crowd of black and silver laptops. If you need something to really express yourself, you have found it. The Dell also comes in Red and White.
The case does attract fingerprints, but is smooth and easy to wipe down. The palm rest also tend to get a little slimy from your hands and it shows up. The laptop hinge in sturdy and it does really take two hands to open the lid. I for one like this, since I don’t want my laptop flopping open at the slightest shake. Overall it seems to be a sturdy build and the laptop feels substantial in your hand while carrying it, but not like a load of bricks in your bag.
Overall for me the good did not outweigh the bad, and even at the price I paid, I still could not justify using it daily. The Dell now does it’s thing for my 6 year old son. He loves the color and the keyboard is the right size for him. He uses it to connect to his school’s education applications that they use in the classroom. The laptop does okay handling a mild VPN connection and remote desktop session.
If you are looking for something that can stand up to a bit of beating with a throw it away and buy a new one price, the Dell Inspirion 3100 line is great. If you need a Windows laptop to get some work done, spend the extra money.
You can get the Dell Inspiron 3162 on Amazon.